Lawmaker wants nonpartisan races to be partisan

Rep. Jay Lawrence

Rep. Jay Lawrence

PHOENIX – A Scottsdale Republican lawmaker wants to force city council and mayoral candidates to run with party labels, saying he believes it will help prevent liberals from sneaking into office.

“I want people to say, ‘Here’s who I am and here’s what I believe,’” said Rep. Jay Lawrence. And he said making people declare if they’re a Republican, Democrat or something else goes a long way to providing voters with that information.

“There are certain things that a Republican believes,” Lawrence said.

More to the point, Lawrence contends the lack of a label allows some people to get elected who he believes do not represent the people who put them in office. He said having to declare party affiliation keeps candidates from “meandering from side to side and kind of being conservative, but never saying, ‘But I’m a Democrat.’”

His legislation, HB 2032, comes nearly a decade after the Legislature moved precisely in the opposite direction.

Jonathan Paton, who in 2009 was a Republican state senator from Tucson, got his colleagues to forbid local candidates from running with party labels. Paton said at the time that the issues important to local voters, like fixing potholes and picking up trash, are not partisan.

But there also was a partisan reason behind the measure: Paton conceded he believed that more Republicans would get elected in Tucson, a city with a Democratic majority, if they didn’t have to run with the party label.

As it turned out, the Arizona Supreme Court voided the law, declaring the Legislature has no right to tell charter cities like Tucson how to conduct their elections.